North Korea: ‘The Cuban Missile Crisis in Slow Motion’

by Jim Geraghty

Happy Easter Monday! Good news, you’ve got one extra day to file your taxes.

Keep your head on a swivel this week. It’s the anniversary week of the Boston Marathon bombing (April 15), the Virginia Tech shooting (April 16), the Oklahoma City bombing (April 19), which was itself selected to occur on the anniversary of the Waco siege, and the Columbine shootings (April 20).

North Korea: ‘The Cuban Missile Crisis in Slow Motion’

The status quo continues, until the day it just can’t anymore:

… another embarrassing setback, a missile test that failed seconds after liftoff, the same pattern seen in a surprising number of launches since President Barack Obama ordered stepped-up cyber- and electronic-warfare attacks in early 2014. Finally, there was the test that did not happen, at least yet — a sixth nuclear explosion. It is primed and ready to go, satellite images show.

What is playing out, said Robert Litwak of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, who tracks this potentially deadly interplay, is “the Cuban missile crisis in slow motion.” But the slow-motion part appears to be speeding up, as President Trump and his aides have made it clear that the United States will no longer tolerate the incremental advances that have moved Mr. Kim so close to his goals.

Back in January, Charles Krauthammer observed, “North Korea may be just an unexploded ordnance of a long-concluded Cold War. But we cannot keep assuming it will never go off.”

The good news is, maybe, must maybe, China is listening to President Trump and putting a little pressure on North Korea’s regime to calm down and cool it:

On a visit to the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea, [Vice President Mike] Pence said he was “heartened” by early signs from China and hoped its leaders would “use the extraordinary levers they have” to prod Kim into giving up his nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. He repeated President Donald Trump’s warning that the U.S. would act without China if necessary.

One of those small, symbolic gestures of Chinese disapproval:

China Monday denied any political motive in the cancellation of flights by its flag carrier to North Korea, as pressure mounts on Beijing to help curb Pyongyang’s weapons programmes.

State broadcaster CCTV reported last Friday that Air China had suspended its Beijing-Pyongyang route, leading to speculation the move was intended to pressure the North.

But foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang distanced his government from the decision and said it was purely “market-based”.

The bad news is, North Korea may not even listen to China anymore:

North Korea did not respond this month to requests from senior Chinese diplomats, including the country’s foreign minister, to meet North Korean counterparts, amid rising tension with the US, Bloomberg reported on Monday.

Citing unidentified sources, the report said China’s special envoy for the North Korea nuclear issue, Wu Dawei, was the other official whose requests for meetings went unanswered.

Check out a photo essay looking at life on the Chinese-North Korean border.

America’s West and America’s Rest

One of the most intriguing comments I read over the Easter break came from sportswriter Jason Whitlock:

Yes, sportswriting has moved far left. The entire media has moved far left. The media used to cater to New York, the hub for traditional liberal values. Journalists used to be obsessed with working at a New York magazine or newspaper or TV network. Now the entire industry is obsessed with going viral and how words will be received via social media. Who determines this? San Francisco/Silicon Valley, the hub for revolutionary, far-left extremism, the home base for Twitter and Facebook. Twitter and Facebook’s employee base is from the area. New York and San Francisco are distinctly different. San Francisco is driving the American media, not New York. You have young, microwaved millionaires and billionaires reshaping the American media in a way that reflects San Francisco values. This is a major story the mainstream media ignore. San Francisco hacked the media. Frisco-inspired clickbait is the real fake news.

There’s a lot of truth to that, and Whitlock puts his finger on why today’s conservative complaint about a liberal media is different from that of ten years ago or twenty years ago. The old New York establishment Left, shaped heavily by Watergate — Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Anthony Lewis, Woodward & Bernstein — could drive the right batty but it was all driven by a noblesse oblige: a self-awareness of the power of their positions and a duty to correct the world’s injustices through exposure. The old journalism saying, “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” implied punching up; the more powerful you were, the more you needed scrutiny. For Watergate, the Pentagon Papers, My Lai, all that the press needed to do was expose the wrongdoing and the public would instinctively recoil and dole out appropriate consequences.

Today’s social-media outrage-mob-driven click-bait journalism is much more about punching down, finding someone who has deviated from the range of acceptable thought and ostracizing them and enforcing the tenets of a shame culture. It’s less about exposing the sins of the powerful than exposing the sins of the near-powerless, whether it’s those gorillas-in-the-mist reports from Red State America or gleeful exposé about the hypocrisies of religious conservatives. (The hypocrisy of a self-proclaimed environmentalist who enjoys a private jet with a massive carbon footprint never quite stirs the hearts of the media as much as a preacher’s affair.) Reading some media sources, you would conclude the biggest threat to America isn’t found in terrorists, hostile threats, runaway government power, or violent mobs at Berkeley or Middlebury, but in the menace of haircuts at CPAC or an Indiana pizzeria unsure if it would cater a gay wedding, an obscure Tucson school board member, an Idaho pastor claiming evangelical Christians are bullied by the culture at large, or Washington Redskins fans who wanted to keep their team’s name. No wonder their dominant attitude towards immigration, legal and illegal, is so welcoming, if they feel such contempt for the Americans who are already here.

This is why you see the headline “Republican Lawmaker [Makes Controversial Statement X]” so often. You’ve probably never heard of that Republican lawmaker — in most cases, an obscure state legislator — and after the controversy ends, you probably never will again. (Think of, say, Todd Akin.) You probably don’t live in the same state. If some no-name backbencher says something stupid, it doesn’t affect your life much at all, certainly not as much as the actual laws being passed by your state legislature. But if most of those in journalism are driven by the impassioned belief that Republican lawmakers represent the preeminent threat to all that is good in America, then spotlighting the brain-farts of no-name GOP state legislators to a national audience is good and important work, because it tells the public that no matter how reasonable, well-informed, and good-hearted some local Republican seems, deep down his mind is a dark and tortured place of hateful and selfish turmoil.

If Whitlock’s assessment is right, then our media today is driven primarily an ostentatious, smug progressivism from those who practice their purported values the least in their working lives. What do Silicon Valley’s elites hate the most? There’s a lot of competition, but surely the plutocratic rich, the old slave owners of the South, the robber-barons, and the little mustached man from the Monopoly game. The titans of Silicon Valley are rarely seen in suits and ties, never mind tuxedos. Of course, a good portion of what Silicon Valley develops runs on our now-ubiquitous smartphones, built by Chinese workers on 12-hour shifts that few Americans would ever tolerate for themselves. Silicon Valley’s super-elites may not be as different from those old, exploitative plutocrats as they like to think.

One can’t help but wonder if there is some repressed guilt coming out in the form of demonization of others:

“Silicon Valley has stopped being the place where people who can’t get jobs elsewhere go. Now it’s like the first stop on the privileged elite bus from the Ivy League—and do not even stop by Wall Street on the way,” Mr. Garcia Martinez said.

He said that Silicon Valley’s ethos allows startup founders to easily justify their quick riches. “To maintain this status of extreme income and outcome inequality you have to think that somehow the moral universe conspired to make you a billionaire and the other guy not,” he said.

Surely at least some of California’s wealthy progressives find solace in the thought that if flyover country is comparably poorer and struggling to get by, it must be because they’re morally worse people – “deplorable,” even.

Elsewhere in the Golden State, our Kevin Williamson chats with the leaders of the California secession movement. It will probably not shock you to learn that those guys haven’t studied much history:

“When I talk to people about California independence, they always say: ‘Well, what would you do if China invades?’” says Yes California president Louis Marinelli from his home in . . . Yekaterinburg, formerly Sverdlovsk (city motto: Don’t call us Siberia), an industrial center on the edge of the Ural Mountains in Russia. “Seriously,” he asks, “when’s the last time China invaded another country?” I mention the obvious ones: Tibet, India, and the Soviet Union. There’s Vietnam and Korea. Marinelli is a young man; perhaps much of this seems like ancient history to him. It does not to the Indians, or the Russians, or the Vietnamese, or many others. “No, I mean: When’s the last time China crossed an ocean to invade another country?” he clarifies. “Only the United States does that.” Only?

The American war machine must surely be of some intense concern to California’s would-be Jefferson Davis, inasmuch as there is no legal or constitutional process for a state’s separating from the Union, a question that was settled definitively if not in court then just outside the courthouse at Appomattox.

ADDENDA: I’m slated to be on CNN International this Thursday at 2:30.

The Morning Jolt

By Jim Geraghty